Monday, October 11, 2010

Busy Bees!

The fear of bees is one of the most common phobias suffered by children and adults alike. Whether it be the fear of the pain of a stinger, or the reaction to the sting, or maybe just the mystery of the insect itself, few people can stand stationary when a bee is poised to attack. It was with this knowledge, and the fact that I personally have had an irrational fear of bees for the majority of my life, that we set out to visit the Poy Sippi Apiary run by Reverend Lance Buccholtz.  The day was gorgeous, we couldn’t have asked for better fall weather. With temperatures in the 70’s and the sun shining brightly, everyone was excited to learn about the intriguing apis mellifera (honey bee). Students were greeted by a hooded figure covered head to toe in a khaki suit. His face was screened and hidden, his hands were buried beneath thick gloves, and his feet were in,  strangely enough, sandals. Everyone gasped, wondering if they too would have to don such an outfit in order to be around the bees. I was hoping someone would offer me one! After exiting the bus and making ourselves comfortable on haystacks and picnic tables, we unpacked our lunches and awaited our lesson. Mr. Buccholtz explained the basics of bee farming, and students were wowed by the sheer numbers of bees that  he cycles through in one short year. With a lifespan of only 6 weeks, on his small farm he goes through literally millions of bees, some of which never even leave the hive. He not only farms for honey, but also the byproducts of that the bees produce, such as beeswax, pollen, and propolis. Students were able to taste fresh bee pollen, hold a large disc made of wax, and view a queen cell. They learned that all of the bees are sisters, and that one bee is selected from each colony to become the queen.  They learned of the dangers of swarming, the best way to tell if a colony is healthy, and all of the heath benefits that come from bees and their byproducts. Afterwards, we were all able to taste some fresh, raw honey, with one lucky student even able to take a small jar home. As usual, the bus ride home was almost as much fun, with the students breaking into song and discussing their favorite parts of the trip. All in all, it wasn’t as scary as I thought, and even the students that also confessed to being afraid of bees said that they had an awesome time :)

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